Join Date: Oct 2004
HANDY HINTS FOR THE CRUISING SAILOR
Put together by Fellow Cruiser on S/Y CATHOUSE
BRIGHTER ANCHOR LIGHT
Some of us place a small lamp in a glass bottle for the anchor light.
Magnify the brightness by filling the bottle with a transparent oil like
Clean resin from brushes by washing with vinegar.
Get months of comfortable use out of a disposable razor. When not in use
keep the razor in a cup of water. Keep oxygen from that sharp edge.
Vegetable oil works better but you have to keep a lid on it because dead
bugs will collect on the surface.
Instead of shaving cream, usually made by a blade mfr. and suspect to
contain ingredient to promote blade wear, use BABY SHAMPOO. The clear
stuff seems to work better than the yellow.
Once opened, a package of disposable razors will go dull without use.
Put those unused disposable razors in a zip-loc bag with a blast of WD40.
Mystery solved, some folks report blade life no better stored in water.
In every case they were using shore water with chlorine. Rain water, well
water, watermaker water all seem to work just fine.
For many years I have been using old crankcase oil from my diesels mixed
in the usual 50:1 ratio. What's wrong with used oil? Well the reason
you changed it in the diesel is due to acid buildup. This can be a
problem when your engine is imersed in oil but not true in your outboard,
there is no oil sump, oil just passes thru and is not stored in the
engine. It's stored in a plastic fuel tank.
What about that black dirty look to used oil? First, that black is
carbon. Sometimes called graphite, the absolute best of lubricants.
This black has another advantage, it colors your fuel. How many times
have you wondered if you had mixed the fuel or not? Most commercial 2T
oils do not change the fuel color, used oil sure does.
The advantage of 2T oil is that the specific gravity is identical to
gasoline. It will not separate sitting in your garage awaiting the once
a year fishing trip. Separation is not a problem on a rocking sailboat.
The other advantage is less ash to foul plugs. This also need not be a
problem if you use a proper 2 stroke plug. But, sorry to say, no longer
made by plug manufacturers. I have not seen one since the 50's. More
profit in conditioning you to change plugs every few hours and go nowhere
without a spare.
Well friends there is an alternative, NGK makes a surface gap plug that
will not go bad. The one I have now is NGK BUHW. This plug does not
have the impossible to clean cavity under the gap but an exposed ceramic
insulator easily cleaned with a wire brush. Be aware that plugs do not
wear out, only the insulator gets a carbon coating that provides a
resistive path reducing spark voltage. I no longer carry spare plugs
only a tooth size brass brush in my dinghy tool kit.
Measuring that 50:1 fuel/oil ratio. I use a 35mm film can. Three (3)
film cans of oil into one of those 5 liter plastic oil jugs is very close
to 50:1. Put the oil in before the fuel for a good mix. Replace that
lid to keep the film can clean for next use.
I usually have more used crankcase oil than my outboard needs. I dispose
of the access by mixing with my diesel fuel. Have never noted exhaust
smoke. Of course I mix 5 liters into a 200 liter tank.
LOW HP YAMAHA OUTBOARDS
A wonderfully reliable engine with a few faults easily fixed.
Comes with a stainless sheer pin guaranteed to chew the prop hub and sell
lots of replacement props. I use a piece of 1/8" brazing rod. Of course
they break easily when hitting rocks and fish nets but that's what a
sheer pin is for, to save your prop. Just carry a lot of them in your
dinghy tool kit.
The fuel filter is located inside the fuel tank and removed for cleaning
by loosening the clamp holding the fuel shut off valve. Problem: the
clamp is stainless steel but screw is iron and impossible to remove
without a hacksaw. Replace with a stainless screw even on new engine.
Also on that new engine pull the 4 big stainless screws on the sides of
the engine cover and coat the threads with anti-seize compound. After a
year or so they are impossible to remove from the aluminum block.
Ever try to remove the carburetor drain screw without removing engine
from the transom? Then, after you have the engine up-side-down in your
lap, try getting that screw back in. Solve this by cutting off the lower
section of the plastic case, that covers the lower carburetor, and
there's that screw easily removed with your tool kit pliers, and
reinstalled with your fingers, without lifting from the transom. If you
groove the threaded end of the screw with a small triangular file you
need not fully remove the screw to drain.
Be aware that Yamaha, and others, are sold with the fuel mixture set rich
for break-in. Performance and fuel economy are improved by moving the
mixture 'C' ring up one notch.
THOSE NEW RUBBER HUB PROPS
When they start slipping simply screw a couple of stainless sheet metal
screws into the rubber on the back side to further compress the rubber.
Problem with short belt life? First it is well worth the additional cost
of a belt with inside notches. This greatly reduces the friction going
around the small alternator pulley.
The following is what I do after a period being a marina queen:
1) Polish inside the pulleys with sandpaper.
2) Lubricate the belt: take a #2 pencil and somewhere in about the
middle cut away the wood lengthwise to expose about an inch
of graphite. Then just hold this exposed graphite against the sides of
the belt with the engine running.
My batteries are automotive size and sited in a box side by side. I
noted that the batteries in the center seemed to have a shorter life and
the center cells of the center batteries required far more water than the
outside cells. Apparently there was just no way for the trapped heat to
dissipate. Solved the problem by placing flat black painted sheet
aluminum between the batteries with about 3" on 2 sides of the sheet
exposed to free air. Now water added is about the same for all cells.
Why pay for bottled water that you think is distilled. In the
Philippines I put ohm meter probes into 'distilled' water and read
conductivity. Distilled water is supposed to be an insulator. Better to
let nature distill your water. I keep a large dishpan purged with rain
water stored in a giant plastic bag. After the beginning of rain has
cleaned the air I put the pan out on deck to collect water. Be sure this
water is direct from the sky and not roof or tarp runoff. I then dip,
with a purged dedicated dipper, into battery water bottles I've saved.
Not recommended down wind from power plant or other belching stacks.
I've been told 'I don't use water, I buy battery solution'. Well folks
this is a water/acid solution for filling a new 'dry charge' battery.
Under charge your battery only loses water, not acid, so continued use of
solution will only increase acid content until the battery is destroyed.
Instead of those noisy, short life 12 volt automotive type fans, use 24
volt truck (lorry to you Brits) fans and operate them on 12 volts. They
are available in an 8 inch size and will move adequate air quietly. Life
expectancy? Don't know, I've had one running all night, every night for
over three years with no indication of bearing wear.
(AFTER 4 YEARS) One of my fans is getting noisy. I took it apart and
found that the front bearing was a bronze sleeve w/o a felt pad (oil
reservoir). Suggest that when you remove the blades to clean you also
add a drop of oil down the shaft into the front bearing.
You won't get this information from your doctor or pharmacist. I found
it in General MacArthur's reports of So. West Pacific operations of WWII.
While treating nerve damaged wounded on Guadelcanal with vitamin B's a
corpsman noted that they were bite free while the patient in the next bed
was covered with bites. This enterprising guy went further to determine
that it was vitamin B1 that the insects hated. An overdose of B1 is
dissipated by sweat and this keeps you bite free. It really works, just
buy B1 as 100mg pills and take one with each meal. Sometimes B1 is
marketed as Thiamin Hydrochloride.
I'm told this will also work on other blood sucking parasites except for
attorneys and ex-wives.
HF RADIO (sometimes called SSB by the uninformed)
Many of you folks faithfully disconnect the antenna from your radio every
time lightning starts flashing. Waste of time, it's that expensive
automatic antenna tuner that gets converted to charcoal. Automatic
antenna tuners are damned expensive and easily zapped by one close
lightning strike. To save your investment simply disconnect the backstay
wire from the tuner terminal and install a link of solder. About 6
inches of that small solder used for electronic work will do. Even a
close strike will blow open the solder link.
Also NEVER use coaxial cable between your antenna tuner and the antenna.
This should be just plain insulated wire. I often get the response,
"what if someone touches the wire?" If it is touched they will only get
an RF burn (not an electric shock) at that instant of a voice peak when
transmitting. A whistle in your mic may cause a pin prick size burn that
you will actually feel. If this is a big concern use automotive spark
plug wire. The kind with real wire in the center, not carbon. Solder
the end of that wire before clamping to the backstay, black copper oxide
is not a conductor.
Another common error is grounding the radio. Not necessary, it's the
antenna tuner that needs the ground, make that a good low impedance
(copper foil) path to the sea.
While on this subject, a painted Dynaplate will not work. Actually there
is no real need to pierce your fiberglass hull to connect direct to the
sea, bilge water is a great radio ground capacitivly coupled to the sea
thru your fiberglass hull.
I commonly find the large coax (RG-8) being used on the HF radio and
small stuff (RG-59) on the VHF. Thinking that the more powerful HF needs
to be big. WRONG, VHF needs the lower high frequency loss of the big
coax while the coax size has little influence on HF performance.
NEVER connect to raw copper without flowing a barrier of solder. When
connecting to copper foil be sure to flow a ring of solder around the
hole. Don't forget the connection to the backstay, tin the end of the
wire before clamping. Copper oxide, when copper turns black, is no
longer a conductor.
Panel degradation is usually due to excessive heat. For long life and
greater output keep those panels as cool as possible. Do not mount flat
on the roof, let air circulate under the panel.
DO NOT use shunt regulation, this only dissipates the power as heat in
the panel reducing life. Solar panels are current generators, not
voltage generators therefore any voltage regulation is a terrible waste
of panel power and money. If you are concerned about overcharge from
solar panels get a contactor type controller. This type of device opens
a contact when battery voltage nears gassing.
Does your electrical powered ref run too often draining your batteries?
I reduced my battery drain by putting a bunch of those small, rectangular
shaped for easy stacking, plastic drinking water bottles full of brine in
the freezer compartment. To start measure the salt you add to a pan of
seawater until a potato floats. Then add that same amount of salt again,
stir until dissolved then fill your bottles. The bottle should not
freeze, a slush is just right. Now you have a poor sailors eutectic ref
system. We also use small plastic medicine bottles with brine in place
of ice cubes. Ice in your freezer continuously absorbs energy, ice will
never be colder that itââ‚¬â„¢s freezing temperature (zero C). Better than
ice, the super cold brine bottle does not dilute the beer.
FLASHLIGHTS (TORCH TO YOU BRITS)
When that bottom spring starts to rust and you are constantly banging
your flashlight to stimulate operation. Easy to fix, just shove some
aluminum foil down the tube so it makes contact between the bottom of the
bottom cell and the brass strip coming up the side. Even aluminum foil
will eventually oxidize so replace it when you drop in new batteries.
Don't throw that cordless drill away when charger and battery dies. They
work even better on 12 volts. Direct wire to the internal battery
contacts or, what I did, make a wooden fake battery with contacts just
like the real thing. This way I retained the cordless feature if I ever
get rich enough to afford another battery.
MORE ON BATTERIES
Are you bothered with that green/white gunge that collects around battery
terminals. This is the stuff that causes poor contact to the post. This
is caused by gas leaking out of the seal at the post. Not the greatest
seal after you've wrenched, twisted, and hammered on it to install the
connecting clamp. Solve this problem by putting a tight fitting piece
of plastic under the connector that is big enough to divert venting gas
away from the terminal. Those red and green things that come with your
battery are just not big enough to protect the connector. Many plastic
lids will do, like the lid from a Pringles potato chip can, then punch a
neat 1/2" hole on center and slip over the terminal under the connector.
That white stuff with the red/blue trace does looks nautical enough to be
called a line. BUT, the truth is, it will rot after only a year under a
tropical sun. Whereas the dark green and black rope commonly found on
fishing boats still looks good after 5 years.
BRUSHING URETHANE PAINT
No fun watching that expensive paint blowing in the wind as you try for
that sprayed gloss finish. Urethanes can be brushed without tell-tale
brush streaks by simply floating a layer of urethane reducer on top of
the paint (don't stir) and dip the brush through the reducer layer into
the paint. The result will pass most inspections except for the club
know-it-all with the blue blazer, yachting cap, and magnifying glass.
ELECTRIC WATER PUMPS
Ever try to get one apart to clean a fouled suction valve? After a few
years the stainless screws will break before unscrewing from the cast
aluminum pump body. Before installing that new pump (because you broke
the screws in the old one), remove each screw and coat with an anti-seize
GENERAL PURPOSE EPOXY
The thick stuff, not laminating epoxies, can be molded like your kids
modeling clay by simply wetting your fingers in water.
ANTI-FOUL PAINT ON METALS
Use a 2 part urethane primer on clean metals then anti-fouling paint will
stay. Cathouse just came out of the water after motoring 3000mi and
anti-fouling was still on the prop.
The tried and true detergent bubble method is fine for the big leaks, but
what about the slow leaks in your refrigeration or LPG system? Your
detergent/water solution dries long before a bubble forms. Ever wonder
how that soap bubble fluid your kids buy in the toy store can last so
long? The secret ingredient is a little glycerin from the drug store
(chemist to you Brits). This puts a film over the bubble to protect it
from drying. I keep the solution in an old Windex spray bottle. You can
actually see bubbles forming hours after spraying.
These are those things that make AC power from your 12V batteries without
starting a noisy gen-set.
Electronic inverters are not all the same, there are two basic types on
SQUARE WAVE INVERTERS are by far the cheapest, most rugged, efficient,
and repairable. On the down side, this type is not well voltage
regulated nor is it's operating frequency very stable but many modern AC
powered devices just don't care. For example: power tools, sewing
machines with brush motors (not the processor controlled types),
computers, TVs and other multi-volt electronic equipment will operate
very well. Square wave inverters Will NOT work with induction or
capacitor start motors like a household fans and refrigerators (motors
with brushes, like your power tools, are ok). Also on the down side this
type generates HF radio noise, has higher idle (no load) current and is
not load sensing to automatically turn on, you must manually switch to
power up AC when you need it.
The MODIFIED SINE WAVE type inverter is a sophisticated, expensive, and
irreparable (the mfrs. will not provide a schematic and active components
have the identification erased) piece of equipment that is easily zapped
by near-miss lightning. The advantages of most of this type is that it
will sense you plugging-in or turning on your appliance to power itself
up and provide accurate regulated frequency and voltage.
Combined INVERTER/CHARGERS for marina queens, a lot of money for that
charger function and they radiate HF radio noise that screws up your
radio and everybody else's on your dock.
I started boat life with two expensive Heart inverters, 120V and 240V so
my power intensive American life style would not suffer living on a boat.
After 5 years we no longer use the 120V inverter and the 240V inverter
powers only the microwave, blender, and power tools. All of our other
appliances are now efficient direct 12V operating. The last to go were
the 19" TV, the computer monitor, and the amplified speakers. All
replaced with a Samsung 15" LCD video/TV/PC monitor, does it all for only
2.2amps at 12V and a picture quality that must be seen to believe. The
LCD in your laptop fades only a few degrees off axis, this thing is still
viewable 80 degrees off axis.
You won't find square wave inverters at West Marine. Try looking for USA
made TRIPP LITE on the net. Or, if you're in Thailand, SPECTRUM has a
line of VERY affordable square wave inverters.
When you buy a replacement alternator be sure to check those fins on the
shaft behind the pulley. The alternator can operate either direction but
many fans are designed for one direction only. If the fins are exactly
perpendicular to the shaft as on Hitachi's you can operate either
direction but if the fins are at an angle the fan is unidirectional.
Just be aware that the fan is a centrifugal blower that draws air from
the rear of the alternator and throws it out the front. So when buying a
new alternator, look at the fan to make sure it will work with your
I agree that internal regulation is not going to work well in the
stagnant air of a yacht engine room. Also be aware that internal
regulation regulates the voltage at the alternator, not at your battery.
No problem in a car where the battery is only a couple of feet away but
this usually is not the case in your boat where your battery box may not
be located next to your engine. You may even have a battery isolator in
line that will further drop the charge voltage by 0.7V. Manual control
using a rheostat is not a fix I'd recommend unless you carefully monitor
during charge with a calibrated digital voltmeter wired directly to the
battery terminals. Using an analog voltmeter is just not going to tell
you the information you need.
The external digital (switching) regulator, that senses voltage at the
battery, is the way to go. This type will provide full alternator
current right up to the regulating voltage, then hold that voltage.
Two main things will cause the failure of alternator diodes, over
temperature and overvoltage. Overvoltage will occur when a connection
from alternator to battery fails and the unloaded alternator output
voltage goes above the PIV rating of the diodes. Overtemp can happen
with restricted airflow, wrong direction fan, or fast charging beyond
rating. Reliability will halve for every 10deg rise above 85deg C.
Problem is that diodes fail short so there goes your batteries,
alternator, and wiring in smoke and warped plates.
FAIL-SAFE FIX is to fuse the alternator output with a fusible link
consisting of an inch or so of solid copper wire. Here's a few wire
sizes and the fusing current (sorry my table only gives the wire size as
AWG not MM): #20=58amps, #18=83amps, #16=117amps, #14=166amps,
To stir the air a bit in Cathouse engine room, I bolted a plastic auto
fan to the engine water pump just like in your car. Easily available
hanging on wall of auto supply store.
ABOUT BATTERY CHARGERS
Reading all the claims by charger manufacturers will leave you very
confused and you will probably end up buying the wrong thing. First what
do you want your charger to do? Charge or float your batteries while in
a marina? Floating means to support your loads while maintaining a
charge without loss of water. Whereas charging is a job best performed
by your diesel.
What should be the current rating of the charger? Add up your 24hr
average loads, let the battery smooth out the peaks and dips, and buy a
charger that claims to do at least twice that. I've repaired many
chargers that have operated at advertised current. Most were turned off
when the DC terminals or fuse holder melts. If you could read the fine
print it probably reads "based on operation above 50 deg of latitude in a
shaded 25 knot breeze".
When you shop for a charger take some kind of continuity tester with you.
An ohm meter, if you have one, or battery and buzzer or light. Check
for continuity between the AC plug and both DC terminals. Be sure to
reverse your test leads, the diode may block one test polarity. If
continuity is indicated, that's a reject because in a marina you are
asking for a galvanic nightmare. You want complete isolation from shore
If you plan to operate from your gen-set there is something else you must
check. Are the rectifiers full wave or half wave? If half wave your
gen-set charging will be a disappointment, it won't charge the same as
when you are plugged in to shore power. The rectifiers must be full
wave. How do you tell if it's full wave? Not easy, you will have to
take a screw driver with you to the store and open the case. Half wave
will have only one diode and if a big charger maybe two connected a
common transformer lead. Full wave will have two or more diodes
connected to separate transformer leads.
After a few years have you noted your crimp lugs and screw connectors
getting hot enough to melt the plastic insulation? This happens because
the wire strands oxidize in our corrosive environment and no longer
conduct to the adjacent strand. As time goes on the oxidation penetrates
further up the cable until all the power is being carried by only a few
On a new cable solder after crimping. If a screw connector, solder the
wire end before clamping.
On your old melted cable cut back as far as possible. Then fray the end
and sand the black oxidation back to a copper color then twist back to
proper wire size and solder.
For the last 13 years here in tropical South East Asia I've been embarrassed
by body odor, trying never to expose my left side to others. Seems it's
virtually impossible to find LEFT GUARD in this part of the world. Well
folks I'm embarrassed no longer, I've found that RIGHT GUARD will
actually work under the left arm